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Manchester United Reportedly Set to Hire Data Specialists to Aid Recruitment

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2020

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Ed Woodward executive vice-chairman of Manchester United is seen the leaving the ground after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 17, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)
Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Manchester United are reportedly set to open a new department of data specialists to help them with recruitment. 

According to The Athletic's David Ornstein (h/t MailOnline's Jeorge Bird), the Red Devils use video analysis to assess potential targets but don't do as much statistical analysis as other top clubs.

United are aiming to change that by bringing in eight specialists to a department led by a head of analytics, which will help them better identify players to recruit, as well as aiding their medical teams and academy.

The club's recruitment has been hit and miss since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, the same year Ed Woodward took over from David Gill at the helm.

January signing Bruno Fernandes took United to around £900 million in transfer spending under Woodward, while only Manchester City pay more in basic wages per player on average this season.

High-profile signings such as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Angel Di Maria and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have all been brought in at great expense over the years and none are currently at the club, although Sanchez is only on loan at Inter Milan.

United's recruitment has been a little more encouraging of late.

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Summer signings Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have shown plenty of promise, while Fernandes is already impressing as he did in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Everton:

Statman Dave @StatmanDave

Bruno Fernandes’ game by numbers vs. Everton: 100% dribbles completed 72% pass accuracy 18 final third passes completed (most) 7 ball recoveries 5 tackles won (most) 6 shots (most) 1 goal Everything goes through him. 🙌🎩 https://t.co/PKbJqBaWqz

However, the club also brought in Odion Ighalo—who had been in the Chinese Super League since 2017—as a last-minute loan deal in January, in a reminder of the haphazard nature of their approach to the market.

As Bleacher Report's Rob Blanchette and football writer Chris Winterburn have observed, there's still a significant issue at Old Trafford when it comes to recruitment:

Rob Blanchette @_Rob_B

The #MUFC PR machine is in FULL affect. Beware of UK articles talking about the club's progressive strategy regarding recruitment, agents & long-term outlook. Yep, United have made changes, but one fundamental remains: Ed Woodward is effectively the DoF. And he shouldn't be...

Chris Winterburn @cmwinterburn

No mention of Haaland pursuit in trends? No discussion as to why it was left until Jan 31 to secure a loan signing. Every day these charlatans remain in footballing positions at Old Trafford is a day further away Manchester United get from success.

Making more use of data is a long overdue step from the club and a positive move in the right direction, but they're still trailing the rest of Europe's top clubs in terms of structure.

Fernandes has returned three goals and two assists in five starts for United, and the club could have signed him last summer before reportedly deciding against the move.

The 25-year-old notched 15 goals and 14 assists for Sporting Lisbon in the first half of the campaign. Had he been at United and offered a similar contribution, the Red Devils would likely be established in the Premier League's top four rather than three points off it.

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